Over the last two decades, Yaël Eisenstat has been a CIA Officer, a U.S. Diplomat, and a special advisor to Vice President Biden. Noticing that more and more Americans were having a hard time finding common ground, she switched her focus from counter-extremism overseas to the dangers back at home—starting with Silicon Valley. Eisenstat’s national security expertise landed her at Facebook, working inside the company playing a major role in one of the biggest threats to our democracy. Today, Eisenstat helps us navigate the choppy intersection of ethics, technology, society, and politics to create a better future.
“We must strive to love our country more than we hate our neighbor.”— Yaël Eisenstat
The breakdown of civil discourse is the biggest threat to our democracy, says Yaël Eisenstat. After leaving the White House for the world of corporate social responsibility, the former CIA analyst became increasingly concerned with how the Internet was contributing to political polarization, hate, and division. “It was easier for me to sit down and have open discussions with suspected terrorists, than it was for me to engage in any sort of political or hot-button discussion with Americans on the opposite side of the fence from me,” Eisenstat explains. Still believing that the Internet could be harnessed for good—connecting, rather than dividing us— she took a job as the Global Head of Elections Integrity Operations at Facebook. There, she dug into misinformation in political advertising, and came to the conclusion that Facebook needed to change its business model. “As long as Facebook prioritises profit over healthy discourse, it can’t avoid damaging democracies,” she says. Realizing she was not going to change the company from within, she left and has since been a public advocate for transparency and accountability in tech.
As a speaker, Eisenstat brings a wealth of experience, as well as a genuinely hopeful vision for the next era of technology. In her brilliant, strategic talks, she discusses everything from information warfare and the future of media, to political and social inequality, international affairs, and national security. Following a period as a Visiting Fellow at Cornell Tech's Digital Life Initiative, Eisenstat is now the Future of Democracy Fellow at Berggruen Institute. There, she will focus on what open, democratic debate looks like in the digital world, and how we can change the incentives that helped social media rise to dominance in our public spaces—replacing them with democratic principles.
Once named one of Forbes “40 Women to Watch Over 40,” Eisenstat founded and runs Kilele Global: a consulting firm working with mission-driven organizations to tackle our most complex global challenges. She is also a Global Policy Adviser at the Center for Humane Technology and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. Eisenstat regularly provides context and analysis on national security, political, and foreign affairs in the media. She has been published in The New York Times, The Washington Post, TIME, and WIRED, and has appeared on CNN, BBC World News, CBS News, and C-SPAN. Eisenstat earned an M.A. in International Affairs from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.
“The Surrey Board of Trade was honored to present Yaël Eisenstat to our Surrey Women in Business Awards audience. Her speech was fascinating as I and the audience listened to all of her career accomplishments. When she said the words about knowing your worth and value no matter what, that resonated with me and the audience. The message about standing up for what you believe in even if it means you have to make difficult choices also resonated. Yaël was amazing!”Surrey Board of Trade
Grit and Grace Women Leading in Male-Dominated Worlds
With Great Power Comes...No Responsibility? Who is Responsible for the Real-World Consequences of Tech?